Book Shambles Literary Quiz

The podcast Book Shambles, which was once Utter Shambles, briefly Cosmic Shambles, Show and Tell, and a medley of other names, has just returned (with the help of crowd funding) as Book Shambles, a new season hosted by Robin Ince and Josie Long entirely based around books. In the spirit of Show & Tell, each of the two hosts and the guest bring in items to discuss (this season, only books, though books were often featured in Show & Tell), and they attempt to discuss them all and usually fail to because of a shortage of time and shambolic tangents. The following literary quiz will test your knowledge of either literature or Book Shambles.

ONE   Illustrator Quentin Blake captures the false smile of this author who wrote about his teenage son who died.

Michael Rosen in The Sad BookLaura Dockrill says, “It’s not like any children’s book you’ve ever seen.”

TWO   Comedian Stewart Lee is writing the introduction to a book by which author?

Musician Billy Childish (a book of lyrics)

THREE   Which author discovered a standard type of planetary orbit?

Arthur C. Clarke. Astronaut Chris Hadfield explains, “If you do the balance of the math between a planet and a spaceship and other planets, there are certain types of orbits that become definitive, that become standard,” and Clarke first calculated one of those orbits.

FOUR   Which author disappeared for years but was later found living in a little village in Cornwall?

Jean Rhys. Salena Godden explains, “Not only is she a mix of being Caribbean and British, but I love the idea that she disappeared and walked out of life….Everyone thought she was dead….In the 1960s, they came and found her, she was in a little village in Cornwall.”

Josie Long says that Jean Rhys’ writings were “so affecting to me that they actually got in the way of my life for a little while.”

FIVE   The main character in this book never speaks, so the entire narration is done by various other people’s accounts of different events as the character grows–as he’s born, changes, and influences people.

Boy Wonder by James Robert Baker. This is Salena Godden’s favorite book since she was eighteen.

SIX   Stewart Lee named his hamster after which author?

Ray Bradbury. As a kid, The Illustrated Man was in Lee’s school book club listings, so he bought it and then bought five or six other Brandbury books. He named his hamster Bradbury.

SEVEN   Sara Pascoe says that part of what’s so sad about this book is that it’s a sign that sometimes by being an outlier, you get punished.

Laika, about the first dog in space.

EIGHT   Which book did Chris Hadfield and his co-astronauts keep in the space station toilet?

Shit My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. Chris Hadfield says, “You have to either velcro it to the wall or strap it down with a bungee. It turns out the handrail on the left side of the toilet is just the right thickness for the thickness of Justin Halpern’s book, so we’d wedge it in just behind the handrail. I read it, then I stamped it with a space station stamp, and brought it back to Earth and gave it to him.”

NINE   Which author is also a postman?

Dan Rhodes. Stewart Lee says, “In the early nineties, as part of my dominance with the media, I did six hour-long shows on Radio 1 with Richard Herring and we were allowed to play music, and I played a track by Giant Sand, and a bloke called Dan Rhodes wrote to me and went ‘I like Giant Sand. Do you want a bootleg of this last London gig,’ and I went, ‘Alright.’ I met him somewhere and he said he wanted to be a writer. I thought, ‘I like this bloke. I hope he’s a good writer because it would be awkward,’ you know. And then his first novel came out and he’s a fantastic writer. He’s never made a living out of it. He’s a postman in Buxton. He’s absolutely superb.”

TEN   What book is Robin Ince describing here? “It’s a bit Beckett, a bit Joyce. What’s great about it is that it took her ten years, and then it was picked up by a small publisher in Norris. They went ‘we’ll print it.’ Then when it came out, I think it was Faber who went ‘You know what, we’ll buy this off you, we love it.’ What’s great is it’s won loads of awards, but it’s not an easy read. It’s one of those reads that once you’re into it, you go ‘I have to read it again.’ It reminds me of things like Beckett’s Not I.”

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

ELEVEN   Which book is Josie Long describing here? “It’s about this very bougie couple and I sort of couldn’t bear them, but I loved them because they’re such full, real people.”

Light Years by James Salter. Sara Pascoe says about the writing, “They’re not fancy words, but put in the order he’s put them in something odd is happening. It’s the best writing I’ve ever seen.”

TWELVE   Which book is Josie Long describing here? “Basically, this guy befriends this girl, and she’s from this family of non-conformists, and instead of watching the big TV screens, they just read. It’s very funny because there’s loads of tropes where everyone’s got these massive TV screens where they take up whole walls in their house, everyone constantly puts these little shells in their ears to listen to music and telly and stuff. This is in the 60s.”

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

THIRTEEN   What is the funniest book Stewart Lee has ever read?

Lint by Steve Aylett. Stewart Lee says, “I think it is the funniest book I’ve ever read. It makes me convulse with laughter. I’ve nearly had a road accident once. I was in a car driving along with Greg Fleet who was reading it aloud to me, and I was laughing so much, I nearly crashed on the motorway…His use of language sets off all sorts of triggers in your brain….The absurdity of this collision of imagery just carries you along.”

FOURTEEN   Chris Hadfield has a kids book coming out in fall 2016. What is the title?

The Darkest Dark. Chris says, “It basically takes my life story to hopefully give a young kid a way to deal with the fears of being small.” Here’s the press release.

FIFTEEN   What was Robin Ince first favorite book?

The Making of Doctor Who by Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks

SIXTEEN   What was Stewart Lee’s first favorite book?

Conan the Barbarian/Conan the Cimmerian 

SEVENTEEN   What was the first graphic novel Sara Pascoe ever read?

From Hell by Alan Moore. Sara says, “I was like ‘Oh, no I don’t do comic books,’ and someone was like, ‘There’s loads of footnotes!’ and I loved it.”

EIGHTEEN   Which book did Chris Hadfield read in its entirety on the space station?

Darwin’s Ghost by Rebecca Stott. Chris says, “Every time I read a chapter and we’d gather for dinner on the spaceship the next night I invariably brought something out of that book because I thought, ‘Hey, I hadn’t really thought of this idea that way and I’m not sure I completely agree with it, but it’s fascinating to explore mentally.’ And that’s what the world should be for everybody.”

NINETEEN   What is Sara Pascoe’s dad’s favorite book?

Perfume by Patrick Suskind. Josie Long says, “I was in the back of a car and I was so into it. A friend had had it, so we were on this car journey for an hour and a half and I loved it, and at the end of the car journey, he was like, ‘I need it back now.’”

TWENTY   Stewart Lee said which book was “un-put-downable?”

Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry. Stewart says, “I was on holiday with the kids in a log cabin in Hampshire and I ignored them for the first 36 hours after I bought this because it was un-put-downable.”

BONUS   Which book is this a quote from? “Giving the same argument while wearing different trousers gives the illusion of varied insight.”

Heart of the Original by Steve Alit


Anglonerd magazine is donating $5 per episode to Book Shambles to keep it going. Want to donate? Visit Patreon and pledge!

If you buy your books through Powell’s Bookstore (Portland, Oregon) by clicking the logo below, a portion of your purchase dollars will go to help fund Anglonerd magazine, with no extra cost to you.

Visit Scenic


Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd. She lives and works in NYC. Follow her on Twitter.
Originally posted May 4, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s